Should I Stay or Should I Go?

One of the wonderful, amazing things about people is their variety. God has created us with different personalities and placed us into different environments, with different people surrounding and influencing us. He has given us unique stories to shape us as we grow in Him.

It’s no wonder that we have such different tastes and preferences, and this variety truly is the spice of life. But it comes at a cost. As Christians, we worship one God, accept one Lord and Saviour of our lives, but we have so many different ways of expressing our love for Him that to the outsider – and maybe to the insider too – it can sometimes seem like our beliefs are totally different too.

Do you prefer to worship just with voices? With timbrel and harp? With a pipe organ? An acoustic guitar? A rock band? Do you like your service to follow a set format, even a standardised liturgy? Or should it be free to follow the movement of the Holy Spirit?

And what do you want from your sermon? How do you want to be preached to? Again there are many forms and styles, and I’ve heard a few of them. The truth is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of sermon, just as there is no ‘best’ way to worship, or to organise a Sunday service.

If you’ve been asking yourself questions about life, and what it’s all about, and if this has led you to a church, but you haven’t felt comfortable, don’t assume that this means Christianity isn’t for you. Please believe me when I say that Jesus does love you, and wants a relationship with you. Is there anyone in the world who could honestly say they don’t like music? I think not. If someone who had been deprived of music all their life was introduced to The Beatles and told “this is music – how do you like it?” How would they react? Of course we don’t know, because it might touch them deeply, or it might just sound like a cacophony to them. But would they be right to dismiss all music as a result? No, they could try a different style – many different styles – and I’m sure they would find several that fit just perfectly to their taste and sensibilities. So if you’re uncomfortable in one church, find another with a different style. And if that one isn’t right, try another. Eventually you’ll find one that really connects you to Jesus, and that will be an awesome day!

If you were brought up in church and you’re heartily sick of it, does that mean you’ve ‘outgrown’ Christianity? Does it mean it was never meant for you in the first place? No it doesn’t. How many of us have the same musical tastes as our parents? There may be a little crossover, but probably not much. Through our early years we have no choice but to listen to what our parents play, and when we get a chance to rebel against it, we usually do; but by cutting music out of our lives? I don’t think so! Nor do we have to cut Jesus out of our lives if the way He has been introduced to us doesn’t feel relevant anymore. No, look for a church with a different angle, a different style, one that fits you – and that church is out there.

If you have been attending a church for some time, and found it fulfilling, but now it feels stale, or just wrong for some other reason, then it’s maybe not wise to jump ship so quickly. Here is an article that provides good food for thought in those circumstances: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2010/07/23/good-reasons-for-moving-on/. Ultimately though, I would say this is a time for prayer and contemplating the will of God in your life. Any reason to move on is right if it is God’s reason.

I want to add one caveat to everything I’ve just said. I’ve spoken a lot about what is basically finding a church that fits you. I think this is very different to finding a religion/faith/worldview that fits you. The former is vital for your spiritual growth, pursuing the latter could be disastrous.

Although I believed in God, creator of the universe, for as long as I can remember, it took me a long time to find my life in Christ. I spent many years in a wilderness looking for a religion that fitted me. That was of course a doomed project. The only way to succeed would be to create my own religion and fill it with my own truth. It’s been done before, and it’s almost becoming a desirable goal in today’s relativistic, secular society. See this excellent article for a discussion of the problem: http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2013/february/dear-rihanna-your-truth-wont-set-you-free.html?paging=off.

When I opened my mind and heart to listen to Jesus I didn’t understand everything I was hearing from Him. And when I gave my life to Him I didn’t like everything He asked me to do. Being a Christian isn’t about God fitting around your will, it’s about you fitting around God’s will, or as the apostle Paul said far more eloquently: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

Don’t expect any church to make you feel great and comfortable and righteous all the time. If it does then there’s something seriously wrong. A good church, like the indwelling Holy Spirit, is also there to make you uncomfortable sometimes, to convict you when your imperfect will contradicts God’s. But a good church will be one that helps you connect with Christ at the times when you feel disconnected, and one that draws you deeper into Him at all times, because its style fits yours and you don’t get distracted by the wrong type of music or the wrong kind of preaching.

A final thought. Your church may change, and you certainly should change, but “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

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